A torii is a traditional Japanese gate commonly found at the entry to a Shinto shrine, although it can be found at Buddhist temples as well. It has two upright supports and two crossbars on the top, and is frequently painted vermilion. Some torii have tablets with writing mounted between the crossbars. Traditionally, torii are made of wood or stone. In recent times, makers have started to use steel and even stainless steel. Torii mark the transition from the sacred (the shrine) to the profane (the normal world).
Inari shrines typically have many torii. A person who has been successful in business often donates a torii in gratitude. The Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto has thousands of such torii.
The origin of the word "torii" is not known. One theory is that it was designed for birds to rest, as hinted by the kanji (tori: bird; i: place). This is because in Shintoism, birds are considered messengers of the gods. A second theory is that it is derived from the term tori-iru (pass through and enter).
"Hinamatsuri (Doll's Festival)" is held on March 3rd. This is a day to pray for young girl's growth and happiness. It is also called "Momo no sekku (Peach Festival)" because of the peach blossom season on the old lunar calendar. May 5th is "Kodomo no hi (Children's Day)," and this is so called "Boy's Festival." While Children's Day is a national holiday, Hinamatsuri is not.
Most families with girls display "hina-ningyo" and dedicate peach blossoms to them. They are usually arranged on a five or seven-tiered stand covered with a red carpet. At the top are the Emperor and Empress. The next step contains three court ladies (sannin-kanjo), followed by five musicians (gonin-bayashi), two ministers (udaijin and sadaijin), and three servants ending the bottom row in a five-tiered display. There are also small pieces of furniture, small meal dishes, and other things.
Samurai was a term for the military nobility in pre-industrial Japan. The word "samurai" is derived from the archaic Japanese verb "samorau", changed to "saburau", meaning "to serve"; a samurai is the servant of a lord.
Wikipedia has a wonderful story of the history of the samurai and to save room here, I have posted the link. Click here
Again for the history behind castles, I have referenced Wikipedia. You can view the full history by clicking here. Japanese castles were constructed primarily of wood and stone. Like castles in Europe, the castles of Japan were built to guard important or strategic sites, such as ports, river crossings, or crossroads, and almost always incorporated the landscape into their defense.
Though they were built to last many were destroyed over the years. However, many were rebuilt, either later in the Sengoku period, in the Edo period (1603-1867) which followed, or more recently, as national heritage sites or museums. It is estimated that at one time there were approximately five thousand castles. Some castles, such as the ones at Matsue and Kochi, both built in 1611, remain extant in their original forms, not having suffered any damage from siege or other threats. Hiroshima Castle, on the other hand was destroyed in the atomic bombing, and rebuilt in 1958 as a museum.
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